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This and that

March 11, 2015

When you have a toddler, you don’t have time … fact.

You have time for them … listening to wonderful made up stories, patching up sore knees, curling up together breastfeeding at bedtime or in the early morning, encouraging them to eat the nourishing meal you’ve lovingly prepared / thrown together / plonked infront of them, walking down the street holding a tiny hand while it’s owner walks on the cracks in the pavement (or jumps over the cracks depending which day of the week it is), brushing soft hair, hanging out small clothes, watching dance class, cheering at impressive trampoline routines, sitting back and wondering how it’s possible you have a three year old and how you’re capable of such absolute love.

I also have time for looking after my mother … she needs it these days, and for cooking and bed making, though not enough time for listening to the stories I know I’ll regret not hearing her tell one day.

What I don’t have time for is myself … or not my old self … hair cuts, reading books, going swimming, buying grown up stuff, taking walks, long baths, chatting to friends on the phone, wine soaked suppers,  having a massage, catching the late train after spontaneous dinners… nor the money … it seems like such a luxury, and such decadence to spend money on myself. Unless anything urgent crops up; a work interview,a new client, a TV appearance …


I need to inject that time in … not just for me, but for her, she needs to grow up with a mother who keeps fit, who looks presentable and is aware of the rest of the wider world. At the moment all she needs is me loving her, nurturing her and keeping her safe and secure, giving her adventures and challenges, but it won’t be long before she’s looking wistfully at other mothers, wondering why I’m not as coiffed or sporty, well dressed or up on music.

So, I’m trying to take time, a few moments when I can, to attend to me … I generally forget to remember to shave my legs and every time I plan on going for a long walk it pours with rain or has gone dark or is time to pick her up from her childminder, but I have managed a haircut this week, and I even had a whole bath by myself and had time to lay back and close my eyes and relish the warmth and the peace. Then she appeared, “Mummy, I get in bath with you? Mummy I want milky … Mummy you want ducks in bath too?” and my attention and my time was hers again … and I was happy.

Then I realised, all the time I spend with her and doing things for her is time for me. I can’t think of anything I’d rather be doing  … that’s why the old kind of me time has been squished down to tiny slivers.

I took her with me to have a hair cut this week, it was in London, my old world, I had a meeting first , she sat beside me and read a book, and then watched me sitting in the chair that went up and down and then asked for a broom to sweep up my hair … it was fun, we laughed alot and the adventure of travelling on the train together was marvellous.

So … time … I guess I need to be more organised, to schedule time more effectively, and also to always remember to relish time with a small person who at this rate (she’s 3, how did that happen??) won’t be a small person who always looks at me with absolute love for much longer.


Three … can you believe it? Three

February 11, 2015

In the kerfuffle of the new year, she turned three.


three years old. I have a three year old. She must have been spirited in by storks or mythical gipsies … I’m sure last time I checked I had a baby, or was it a toddler … and now she’s three and a proper little girl. In actual fact a ‘proper little madam’ the description of Violet Elizabeth from Just William is fairly apt.

She fluctuates from wanting to be a ballerina to wanting to be a cow, from singing to painting, from dancing to jumping in puddles and landing on her bottom in the water in fits of giggles. She is full of empathy and love and is also very keen on her own way and her own ability to do everything. We’ve had the odd full on lying on the floor kicking kind of tantrum, and the unutterable despair which results in her holding her face in her hands and sobbing when the world ends because she didn’t pull the yoghurt lid completely off and I finished the job, or when she wanted to pick up the dropped fork and I selfishly did it… but all in all she’s an affable soul.

I’m greeted in the mornings, whatever the weather outside, with, “lovely day Mummy, time to get up and have milky”, or “hello YOU Mummy”, and then have to go through an elaborate ritual of greeting her current chums two stuffed toy rabbits.

Anyway, she’s three, and we celebrated in style … her Granby took her to the ballet, I went as the carer which was a little alarming; trying to keep an eye on H at the same time as pushing a wheelchair. I was a little apprehensive as to how she’d react to the whole experience, but she sat on my lap and stared in wonder at the stage, the toys dancing, the children under the Christmas tree and the naughty mice. In her mind, she was Clara up there dancing with her handsome Nutcracker. She didn’t wriggle or make a fuss, the only outburst, and that in a stage whisper, was “Look Clara dancing, Clara awake”, and other than that the odd muttering about the colours of the dresses the dancers were wearing. She absolutely loved it. She made friends with the cellist in the orchestra area infront of us and in the interval and at the end whirled, in the red taffeta dress she’d been given by a friend last year for her second birthday, and twirled and then was allowed to pull the bow across the cello strings.

That night, wearing the tutu one of her godmothers gave her for Christmas, she announced, “I’m a ballerina” … and she has been ever since.

We made her birthday cake together … the recipe a friend gave me a few years ago when she steered me through the massive challenge (for me) of making a sponge cake with a series of direct messages on Facebook. We didn’t have vanilla essence or lemon essence, so it was a lavender sponge instead… decorated with butterflies and sugar paper flowers … Nigella I’m not, but a whole lot of love went into that cake.

She had a party, a party in the woods, on a windy rainy day. It was one of those parties that I’d thought lots of people would be away for, but they weren’t, with only one exception, in the end everyone I’d invited turned up… several had said they were away, but people changed plans … and the little room in the stables in the woods was bursting with exuberant toddlers, bemused older siblings, squeaky younger ones and all their parents, and her Granby, who came and sat in state and watched the madness unfold infront of her.

Hope’s into singing in a big way, and also pass the parcel, so I decided to combine the two. We didn’t have forfeits, we had songs … when the music stopped … (ha … I say music … the talking was so so loud it totally swamped the music!), sometimes there were pieces of white paper with song titles written on them … she chose Sleeping Bunnies, Wind the Bobbin Up, If You’re Happy and you Know it and Twinkle Twinkle. It was fun, they all lay face down on the concrete slabs in amongst the wrapping paper then leapt gleefully to their feet and Hop, hop, hopped … happy times. Her cake, her big yellow cake, was bought in and everybody partook … and other than that they played with a myriad of coloured balls and a rainbow tunnel, and then all put on their wellies and thick coats and went back out into the wild dark woods leaving me and a handful of willing volunteers to restore the sanity of the stableblock!

Some of her God-siblings came home with us and they played more, she was beyond tired but was so happy to have small folk to play with, I sat with her Godfather and had a glass of wine, and we smiled proudly … I can still remember how emotional I felt a fair few years back now when he showed me his grainy scan picture and announced they were pregnant. Joe is now the big boy of the four of them and Hope adores him.

We slept … a little, she was so over excited, and we went to church on Sunday where she told everyone it was her birthday and generally had a jolly time skipping with her hands on her hips around the church hall.

In the afternoon we went to another party … a little girl 15 minutes younger than Hope … her mother and I had our cesareans in the same room one after the other. Her daughter was late, mine was early … they now go to the same playgroup and play together … mine is at the bottom of the centiles, hers at the top … they’re friends, as are we. This was a quiet party, only a handful of children in their house. The theme was bumblebees, the food was mainly a cake, a lovely bumbleebee hive cake which put mine to shame. The children danced and played games … Hope’s hand made / thrown together bumblebee costume came off quite quickly “itchy Mummy” and she danced around in her vest, a happy little bee.

That night we flopped! Oh and we made another cake … this time a blue one … and a bowl of green icing … for her actual birthday cake. You’d think I might get better at baking … I don’t, they’re consistently flat and not tempting, but I persist in persisting!! Hope chose the colours and enjoyed stirring, mixing and making … before we both got so tired we had to retire… well she did, and I stayed up with drooping eyelids and finished off a small green cake with yellow butterflies!

On the actual day, her birthday, we had a milky cuddly lay in and then go up and I painted her face … and she painted mine … both butterflies, both done with great care. She also decided she was having a baby and spent the morning with a small stuffed rabbit up the front of her top … when her father came round during a work break, she painted his face (it took a little persuading!) like a lion, whilst pregnant, and then we all shared green and blue cake…. he left pretending he was going to be a lion all day, which she was delighted about!

I then had a bath while the butterfly played with her Granby, they covered the sitting room in glitter and had a lovely time making cards (for me oddly), it was a happy and much needed peaceful time after the exuberance and chaos of the weekend!

She opened some of the incredible mountain of presents she’d been given, we played with a small friend of hers and shared a babyccino (top toddler treat of the moment), and then went to dancing class. She wore her tutu, and WAS Clara … she twirled and whirled and danced and skipped, hands firmly on hips, and show bowed at the end and joined in the mantra, “thank you for dancing”. The wonderful teacher had the class sing Happy Birthday to her and then kept her back for ten minutes and they danced alone together, Hope and her heroine … it was huge fun.

We had supper with Daddy … squid, noodles, duck and then ice cream, they did their jolly walk, and we all climbed up and down the stairs outside a few times … funny how family routines form!

Then we came home and I painted her face again, like a tiger this time, and we sat and looked at her new Flip Flap Farm book and had some quiet time with Granby before she headed happily up to her birthday bath, and the magic flannel … the flannel that has taken away all her face painting faces … the butterfly, the lion, the bicycles, the tiger and now the birthday tiger … I put it on her face and the pattern appears on the flannel and then when we waft it around in the water it washes away leaving only a faint trace … it’s really very peaceful.

Then we curled up together, “I’m three Mummy”, “my birthday”, and she had a milky banquet before snuggling down to sleep.

I’ve been totally overwhelmed by the love and kindness she’s been shown, but the huge generosity of friends and family, and the massive range of presents … nothing repeated at all and that’s with Christmas and Birthday … general themes around night clothes and dressing gowns, and making things, and so many lovely books. She’s a very lucky little soul to have such friends… and we now have the BIGGEST mountain of thank you cards to write!!

I write this a month or so after the day, she’s now 37 months old and has grown an inch and a half since her birthday … she knows she’s going to be four next birthday, and delights in sharing the date with everyone, but is equally delighted about Granby’s upcoming celebration and all the birthday parties she has coming up. “I sing happy birthday to EVERYONE”, my generous spirited, happy, thoughtful little soul … her energetic, open approach to life is inclusive and loving and I can’t wait to spend the next year with her, though I wish the time would slow down a little … it seems to be racing by.

dancing in the interval of the Nutcracker

dancing in the interval of the Nutcracker

party party party

party party party

sleeping bunnies at the party

sleeping bunnies at the party

buzzy bees

buzzy bees

two happy butterflies

we two happy butterflies

a green cake

a green cake

dancing class

dancing class

end of a happy day

end of a happy day


Nits and threadworms …

February 11, 2015

Hmmm had an email from playgroup warning of the presence of nits and threadworms … never heard of the latter and was traumatised as a child by the former due to my absurd quantities of thick, curly hair.

Dashed to the chemist to find out what to do … and came away with a nit comb (which I’ve now lost).

Told her father, who twenty minutes later said, “oh there’s something crawling in her hair”, and got all agitated … there wasn’t, it was a bit of banana from her breakfast.

Funny the reaction it seems to bring in adults … mine is mainly along the lines of, “oh that would be annoying”, and also selfishly, “she’d better not give them to me” (even thicker more unruly hair than when I was younger now … think I’d have to shave it all off as I’d never get a nit comb through it!), but some people seem to get very stressed about the whole idea. One of her Godmothers flinched visibly and said, “ohhh no that would be terrible” and another friend said she is quite obsessive about checking her children on a nightly basis.

I was discussing this with a friend, and mother of another small girl at the same playschool, and she very reassuringly said she remembered Sunday evening nit checks from her mother throughout childhood and that nits were a regular occurrence in their home. We both decided it would be deeply embarrassing going to have a haircut and being found to have them, and also would be a social faux pas to be out for dinner and have someone else spot something crawling in our hair …

I guess the constantly circulate colds and coughs have now been added to by more visible bugs and they all need to be watched out for … and I’m not looking forward to small person coming home with them. She’s got such fine straight hair and is great at shouting, “Get out snaggles, go away snaggles” for me when I have to comb out any tangles, but I’m not so sure how she’ll be shouting, “go away nits” if and when it comes to the nit comb moment.

… and as I said, I’ll just have to shave my head if they come anywhere near me …

Not so keen on the idea of threadworms though … how very horrible.

Ahh the joys of toddler parenting!

Finally a ‘proper’ Mummy

January 20, 2015

I did it … I did it …


three years and a week or two since she was born and I finally did it.


At last I’ve conquered my fears and at last I’ve done what every other mother has been doing since their child was born.


A friend did it for me.

Her child minder did it for me.

I’ve never managed it …

Until today …

I have achieved Proper Mummy status.


I have clipped her toenails … with a proper nail clipper … I didn’t have to bite them or file them like I do her finger nails. I clipped them.

To be fair every time I’ve even contemplated it before she’s shouted “NO, not feet” and kicked out or swooped her toes away from me. Today we had a bath together, I got out and dried myself. She then climbed out of the bath by herself (for the first time) – yoikes – marched in and pointed her perfect toes … “Mummy cut my toemales” (and yes I know I’ve written toemale not toenail), “Mummy cut my toemales with clippy thing, put glasses on”. She handed me my glasses and marched me back into the bathroom and pointed up to the shelf where the clipper lives. There was no escape.

I was terrified… but thank the Lord for being so omnipotent as to be able to control the precise moment a sunbeam shone through the bathroom window exactly onto the foot of my small person, thus illuminating her toenails, which indeed did need a trim.

She sat on my lap, she held her foot, and I did it … I clipped her toenails … and I could see properly, and I didn’t clip her by mistake.

I finished, she pointed her toes and shouted “taa daaaah” in manner of her Godmother, and she reached up, kissed me and said, “thank you Mummy for cutting toemales”, and jumped down and wandered off.

I’ve been feeling oddly proud of myself ever since!

Stolen time

January 7, 2015

I don’t know what’s happened recently, someone has stolen my time … days have vanished, literally, and not just any old days, but Christmas, New Year, small person’s birthday … sunshine, showers, fog, cold, friends, family, book, work, health, ill health, oodles of toddlers, one incredible toddler, mountains of washing, mountains of washing up … it’s all been there, only someone has stolen my time … I don’t think I’ve had the chance to sit down with my feet up, or even tucked neatly under my desk, for longer than 3 minutes since mid December… and now it’s 2015 …

Dear oh Dear.

I’m a believer in mindfulness, but of late I’ve been suffering from a severe case of mind-full-ness, make that mind-too-full-ness.

So many magical moments have been swamped … so important to sift them out before they get washed away in the tsunami of the last few weeks.

Father Christmas came to playgroup and gave her a lovely hardboard book about the nativity, and she got to sing sleeping bunnies with all her friends. She was slightly suspicious of him and made me collect her present, but only because she was one of the first called out, once a few more had been up, she was off encouraging the more cautious …

We went to the pantomime, Aladdin, her cousins were staying, all boys, all older, she’d been playing in the garden all afternoon with them, she was tired and she was overwhelmed to start with, “TAKE me home”, but we went out and had some water at the bar, she chomped crossly on an ice cube and did some twirls in the corridor, then she heard laughter, “people laughing Mummy”, then music, “go see music Mummy”, and we went in and from that moment on she sat bolt upright in my lap, she beamed, she watched, she cheered, clapped and in the end got down and danced, perfectly reflecting what was going on stage. Her youngest cousin was invited on the stage, she was put out when she wasn’t allowed to go up with him. In the end I think she enjoyed it more than her Uncle, cousins, grandmother (well maybe not her grandmother), and I did … and remembered character names, the songs and detail of specific scenes.

We went and stayed with her Auntie and her other grandmother … she fed ducks, she fed fish, she played, she watched Peppa Pig (they’re more generous in their TV watching than I am which she exploits to the full), she made cups of tea, she curled up with the dog on her grandmother’s bed and she went bowling, and scored a strike with the very first ball that she pushed down the small metal hill they provide for small people to use. From there we rushed back and she enjoyed (eventually having been woken from a deep sleep) a candle lit carol service which culminated in all the children (in their nativity costumes – her angel wings shone in the candlelight), rushing forward to be given golden heart shaped helium balloons … it was beautiful.

We went with her best friend to see Father Christmas on a miniature railway … there was a very chilly looking dancing penguin, and a wonderful reindeer, and in a clearing in the wood, there was Father Christmas … he gave her a present, a wolf, and her friend a mouse … they were thrilled .. their tired mothers smiled and enjoyed the moment of togetherness. A time to put painful situations aside and revel in the joy of simplicity, and the wonder that Christmas can bring to a child.

On Christmas Eve she developed a temperature of 100 and picked up my vile cough, the GP observed her temperature was the record for the day, and put her on antibiotics … when she was tiny she refused point blank to take medicine. Something has changed and now she reaches out, pushes the syringe herself and asks for more … even with the vile yellow antibiotic … she did well with constant medicine over the next few days, but really wasn’t herself.

She was delighted on Christmas morning to find that Father Christmas and Rudolph had eaten the carrots and her home made mince pies “they have one each”. This really was the high point of the day, and she kept going out to the hall to look at the crumbs left on the plate, and the bits of carrot Rudolph (it was he for sure) had left on the floor “naughty Rudolph”. She sang carols in church, we visited my father in his leafy graveyard and left him a wreath, we opened one or two presents, shared lunch with an elderly friend, opened a few more presents and watched Miranda “this my favourite”, and Call the Midwife … very quiet, but special … Hope and Granby so enjoy each others company … so often I’m irrelevant, and just fade into the background of their play together … I love sitting watching.

We visited a friend from overseas with a little girl, we had walks in the cold sunshine and the dank rain; she and a chum enjoyed pretending to be cows on Grantchester Meadows and walking over the cattle grids on their hands and knees or hands and feet shouting moo at passers by. We drank hot chocolate, she enjoyed the odd babyccino (her staple favourite especially with marsh mallows). We recovered from our horrible bugs, she played with her cousins, they taught her tricks with a football and new jumps on her little jumpoline, she learned their songs and their games. We looked after Granby, getting stronger but still less mobile, and we enjoyed looking at the Christmas tree and her clump of blue baubles (all in one area “mine decorations mine”). We got muddy, we sang, we played, she scooted, we had picnics by the river, we got chased by geese, and we pulled the house back together having had a new downstairs shower fitted for Granby. She seems more up for breastfeeding than ever, and we’ve had some peaceful moments together, and some rather funny ones where she’s just suddenly decided she was hungry and randomly lifted up my shirt and tucked in!

Then it was time for New Year … we had a repeat of last year, we watched Mama Mia, the fireworks and Jools Holland’s Hootenanny, only this year we were both exhausted, and having woken up at 9 following a 3 hour sleep, she had curry for supper and then fell asleep breastfeeding ontop of me about 20 minutes before midnight. We stayed like that for a while, and then I carried her up to bed. Her bed was full of her furry friends and several books, so I put her in mine, she generally ends up there anyway in search of milk. She starfished immediately and I curled up on the edge of the precipice and lay there listening to her regular peaceful breathing. She then followed me around in her sleep and we both ended up asleep sideways on at the bottom of the bed. She woke up on New Year’s Day and smiled at me and demanded “milky Mummy”, then sat back, patted my chest and told me “you have beautiful milkies Mummy” and carried on slurping.

She can recognise, recite and assign words to all the letters of the alphabet, she has an ever expanding song repertoire, and she dances now, constantly … and was absolutely delighted to have a tutu for Christmas which went to dance class and took over from the Father Christmas dress as her dance outfit of choice. She’s developed a fascination with body parts and bodily functions and regularly commentates on not just her own but everyone else’s toilet habits, “Granby doing a poo”, “lady gone in toilet to do a wee”, and notably to my brother over the kitchen table during a quiet supper one night, “you got willy?”. She is kind (generally) to her friends, she is keen to make people feel included, “you want tea? / wine / juice”, “you ok?”, and has tremendous empathy when anyone else has something wrong, “oh that’s terrible, poor you, make knee better fast … need go hospital?”

We then went to a third birthday party … which led to another and then to hers … but the parties are a post in themselves! So let’s stop at New Year’s Day …

So much else happened and I so wish the time thief would restore unto me the many magical moments that now and probably for ever more will elude me. Taking this brief time to reflect makes me realise more and more quite how much we lose, and how important it is to cherish and celebrate every magical moment.

It’s been a tough month in many ways, but the golden joyful thread of Hope that has held it all together shines just as magically and strong as ever and she has enjoyed so much.

Now then, time thief, I resolve to catch you and to stop you from doing this to me again!

oh and Happy Christmas … and Happy New Year!!

Father Christmas and Rudolph

Father Christmas and Rudolph on the railway

2014-12-28 15.38.42

scooting in style

two small cows delightedly conquering the cattle grid

two small cows delightedly conquering the cattle grid

marching through the mud

marching through the mud


looking ahead to the new year

looking ahead to 2015




Happy New Year from both of us

Happy New Year from both of us



Calling Time on Breastfeeding …

January 7, 2015

With all the uproar in the mainstream media around breastfeeding older children, I’ve been asked my opinion by several people … I gave it almost a year ago in my first piece at Huffington Post.

Here is that piece … and I haven’t changed my opinion since … if Denise Sumpter and her daughter are happy breastfeeding at 6 years of age then that’s a good thing, it’s their right and I applaud them both … breastfed children are brighter, more confident and less frequently unwell, and the longer they are breastfed the more true this is – this link has an interesting overview on all of that Far more knowledgeable and experienced midwives, lactation consultants and paediatricians (and indeed WHO and UNICEFF) give directly the opposite advice to that given by Clare Byam-Cook (the ‘expert’ former midwife wheeled out by ITV for the interview with Denise Sumpter as to the nutritional value of breastmilk after 6 months. She may have some sensible things to say around early stage breastfeeding but as regards her opinion on breastfeeding older children there is a wealth of knowledge that says she’s wrong.

So, where was I? Ahh yes, here is my piece from Huff Post back in March 2014.

Calling Time on Breastfeeding

Other than wondering what it felt like, and why you want to have your nipples gnawed by a toothy toddler I’d never thought much about breastfeeding, let alone how long women carried on for?

Then I had a baby.

Older than most first time mothers, and with my daughter delivered prematurely by caesarean section, I found breastfeeding difficult. We couldn’t get the knack, I held her all wrong, her mouth seemed too tiny, it was so much harder than I’d expected.

I didn’t feel the sense of judgement many women seem to, but nursing was something I wanted to do if at all possible, for her health, for mine, for our bond, and because it seemed that it should be (and of course is) the most natural thing in the world. But it was hard. I shed tears of frustration as I lay there, pressing the buzzer to ask for advice on re-latching my unhappy baby.

Photo supplied by and (c) Ellie Stoneley 2015 all rights reserved
With help from one of the volunteer lactation consultants who walked unobtrusively around the maternity ward, we got through the first few days. My daughter was born a month early, with complications, and also fed via a nasal tube, I struggled to express and never got along with the peacefully sighing milking machine, we carried on with our unsatisfactory attempts at nursing topped up with little bottles of formula.

Then one of the midwives spotted a tongue tie. Our hospital didn’t offer the required division procedure, so we had to wait until we were discharged before taking our 10-day-old daughter an hour away to a consultant in Bedford. Her tongue tie was snipped, and when she came back to me everything was different, within seconds she got her mouth around my nipple and started to feed successfully. Many hospitals in the UK don’t seem to recognise the issues that tongue ties can cause, 3% of babies are born with them.

The SCBU community midwife suggested we go to a breastfeeding ‘lesson’. It was daunting, walking into a room of women nursing babies (with a few harassed looking fathers who weren’t sure where to look), but any anxiety I felt melted away as it became evident that we were all in the same situation. The techniques I was shown worked wonders, from then on my voracious little girl has sought out my breasts, “mine milky” as she now calls them.

She continued to have formula from time to time; as back up to my limited pumping skills, to allow other people to feed her and give me a break. Then at five months, she started refusing bottles and cups. Then it was down to me to sustain her, that scared me initially, but she thrived on breastmilk alone until she was 10 months old and starting solids.

I have spoken to women who wanted to nurse their babies but couldn’t, or decided enough was enough after a few weeks. Many women have perfectly healthy infants and decided right at the start that breastfeeding just wasn’t for them, and others are still feeding five-year-olds. I was lucky in that I decided to nurse and, with help, was able to. Everyone’s situation is different. Ultimately it’s important that women respect and recognise each others’ choices, there is too much polarisation in the breastfeeding debate which isn’t helpful. If you need to mix and match, like we did, to get started, then that’s OK. It doesn’t have to be all or nothing when it comes to breastmilk and after hearing from many women it seems that this is where the pressure comes and they give up.

I thought we’d carry on until her first tooth appeared, or she was able to ask for it. In reality I scarcely noticed the arrival of teeth. As for asking for it, that happened long before she could speak, nuzzling at my breast, then lifting up my top or prodding my chest with her finger, then one day she reached up and said, “Milky”. It was a tremendously life affirming moment, far from making me want to stop, it made me want to carry on as long as it works for us both.


Photo supplied by and (c) Ellie Stoneley 2015, all rights reserved.

The Time magazine cover fuelled the debate; the picture of a young mother breastfeeding her three-year-old son. He was standing on a stool beside her. “Are you Mom enough?” taunted the headline? My daughter was five months old at the time and exclusively breastfed, I didn’t think then I’d still be nursing when she was two, but I am. I’ve not been made to feel uncomfortable, and there have been no negative comments, quite the opposite, “I wish I’d been able to”, “Best thing for her”, “good on you for carrying on”, “my wife’s still nursing our four-year-old”. The response has been supportive, if there’s been a response at all. In public, we’re discreet and generally seem to go unnoticed.

As an aside, I do wonder how much more fiercely the discussion would have raged had the cover been of a 48-year-old mother nursing her toddler? An older woman breastfeeding? Surely not!

Breastfeeding is about far more than nourishment, it is about intimacy, about building the bond between mother and baby, it’s (I’ve found) much easier than the faff of bottles or getting up in the night to fetch a cup of warm milk, and offers (once you’ve got the hang of it) some of the most peaceful personal times a mother can have with her child. My favourite start to the day is when she wakes up and smiles, then rubs her eyes and shouts “Yay milky” before diving across the bed for her early morning feed. Co-dependent? Hell yeah.

A friend asked how long we were going to carry on. I joked, “oh until she’s 18″. He looked horrified! Of course I was kidding, but for now, we have no plans to stop. Why would we when we’re so fortunate that it works well for us. The decision as to when to call time on breastfeeding is hers … next week, next month, next year? We’ll just wait and see.

Having trouble breastfeeding? Get your midwife or health care professional to check for a tongue tie, and check out local nursing support groups. The La Leche League weren’t the breastapo they’re made out to be, and they offer a wealth of calm and non judgemental experience in supporting new mothers.

The piece was originally published at Huffington Post in March 2014

Mary’s boy child …

December 17, 2014

They were born a few months apart … they’ve grown up together, it was his mum that introduced us to the wonderful playgroup we go to, the one that organised the Nativity play … he’s long since been the person H refers to as “my boyfriend”, and it was he who was Joseph to her Mary.

Proud mothers arrived early for once, and small folk were encouraged into costumes … excitement and tantrums, swaggers and refusals… thankfully Hope and her Joseph were happy to get dressed and stand holding hands, and then sit, very upright, watching the beginning of the service.

Brass band music, jolly carols, and then, Marilyn got up … “Welcome to our Mums and Tots group”, we all beamed and blushed, then she went on to explain that it was very much a toddler interpretation of the nativity story, even down to the fact that Mary had decided her baby Jesus was to be a rabbit, her own slightly bedraggled toy rabbit.

Then she started, “Mary and Joseph made their way to Bethlehem”, and that was our cue to nudge the small folk forwards … holding hands, that didn’t last long and they jumped up the stairs and headed for the manger. She got there first and nabbed the chair, Joseph stood solemnly by, wearing his sister’s furry gilet and holding his hobby horse like a weapon, he looked like a warrior king.

We had to sing, Away in A Manger … Hope has been practising for weeks, over and over again, in her sleep the other night, she’s word perfect, she even planned to bow at the end, but faced with a hall full of people, she froze, she managed the first bit and the last bit but otherwise stood and stared, and also looked after Rabbit, or should I say, Baby Jesus. She lifted him at the right time, cuddled him all wrapped in his blanket (with his ears tucked neatly in to keep them warm), and then plonked him gently(ish) into the manager when we sang, “Asleep on the hay”.

It was lovely.

Then the angels came, a ramshackle crew, and the shepherds and kings led by a 4 month old star who was a little bemused by his costume.

We all rang bells, banged drums, sang loud and then shouted Happy Christmas, and before we knew it, it was over.

Mary stood and looked at the crowd, then jumped down the stairs and scampered back to Granby who was watching, and to two dear friends who had come to watch her big moment.

She was very pleased with herself, until she bumped her head on the back of the chair infront, but a large cake with green icing cheered her up afterwards.

Funny, I guess it’s one of those ‘milestones’, I was thrilled to bits she was an angel the first year, then last year, her and her friend were taller angels but had a bit of a squabble and the angel wars erupted over a pack of raisins … and when I was asked if she’d like to be Mary I was very emotional, even more so when Alfie go the part of Joseph.

She had put stickers all over the front of her costume, stickers of snowmen, “make it look pretty”, and her headdress kept sliding down. The blue robe was far too big for her and her shoulder poked out at one point, but she stood tall and was the prefect Mummy, protecting and soothing her small charge as she jiggled from foot to foot.

We had a minor moment in the car on the way home, “Jesus, I’ve lost Jesus … “. I stopped the car. “Where’s my rabbit mummy????”, luckily he was on the floor and soon restored to her loving arms. “Rabbit want some milky Mummy, baby Jesus love milky, come on Jesus”, she lifted up her top and pretended to breastfeed him as we drove home.

An all too fleeting, but incredibly special morning, and Mary’s boy child spent the afternoon flopped on the sofa recovering! Mary herself went to her dance class Christmas party, but that’s a whole other story.

Mary and Joseph warming up

Mary and Joseph practising holding hands and walking in character